In two separate incidents recently, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers working at the San Antonio International Airport seized currency from travelers who refused to provide an accurate report. The total amount seized from the travelers reached more than $32,000.
“There is no limit to the amount of currency a traveler can bring in or take out of the U.S.,” said San Antonio Acting CBP Port Director Jose Mendiola. “The only requirement is that travelers must complete a Currency Reporting Form when traveling internationally with currency valued at $10,000 or more.”
According to Mendiola, the currency is not limited to U.S. dollars. “Currency is any monetary instrument including foreign coins, travelers’ checks, and gold. Basically any negotiable instruments whose collective value reaches $10,000 or more.”
Mendiola added that this requirement also applies to passengers travelling together and carrying currency that exceeds $10,000 dollars. When passengers split up the currency amongst themselves to avoid reporting it that is known as currency structuring.
Currency structuring led to a seizure on January 22, when CBP officers inspected a pair of Global Entry travelers arriving from Mexico. A 60-year-old citizen of Mexico declared $9,915 and his 44-year-old companion, also a Mexican citizen, declared $4,800. Both passengers completed a Customs Declaration Form declaring those amounts. However, when CBP interviewed the pair they admitted that they divided the money before boarding their flight and that the currency belonged to only one passenger. The final amount seized was $14,807. CBP also revoked both travelers’ Global Entry memberships.
The second seizure occurred on January 23, when CBP officers inspected another pair of travelers who arrived from Mexico. These passengers initially claimed to be traveling alone. The 26-year-old Mexican national claimed to be traveling with $9,000 and completed a Customs Declaration Form reporting that amount. CBP officers later encountered a 25-year-old Mexican citizen who declared traveling with $8,200 and signed a Customs Declaration Form reporting that amount. During CBP processing the pair admitted that they had divided the currency before boarding the flight and decided to enter the CBP processing area separately. The total amount seized in this instance was $17,200.
Nationwide, in fiscal year 2019, CBP seized $68,879,080 in currency. In fiscal year 2020 through January 23, currency seizures are already at $20,808,879. In the Houston region, which includes San Antonio and Dallas, currency seizures reached over $1 million and have increased 54% over the same time last fiscal year.
According to Mendiola, the best way to avoid currency seizures when traveling internationally is to truthfully report the value of the currency to a CBP officer even if it is divided between passengers.